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About the Film:
The Black Moses, a film by Bahamian filmmaker, Travolta Cooper, starring Dennis Haysbert, and described as being somewhere between a documentary and narrative, uses the mythological figure as a means by which to tell the story of Lynden O. Pindling, the country’s first native leader, and his quest to bring social, political, and economic Independence to The British Bahama Islands.
The name “Black Moses” – its mythology -‐ dates all the way back to the formation of the New World – it’s a poem that goes back as far as Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian revolution. Imagine that he finally decided to emerge to tell his story. There are many places he could choose to tell his story; Kenya, Jamaica, South Africa, or America, but he chooses the place from where it all began, the spot where the “mustard seed” of new world began – the islands of the Bahamas. L.O Pindling, branded the father of the nation and black Moses of his people was regarded by some as a god, and by others as a devil. The Black Moses takes a neutral look at the polarizing life and times of one of history’s most enigmatic figures and asks the world to interpret who The Black Moses was, and is – who L.O Pindling was, and is.
On a recent visit to New York, we spent some time talking with Travolta and about his film and its upcoming release in theaters in the Bahamas and US:
CineCaribés: Share your background with us – Who are you, where are you from, how and why did you become involved in film?
TC: I was born and raised in the islands of The Bahamas. Movies have always been my true north. Even my mother got some premonition of this and gave me the name Travolta, while I was still in her womb. Lol. I was three years old and acting in church and school skits. Acting evolved into writing. Writing became directing. Directing evolved into Producing. All these fruits exist on the same tree – a tree called cinema.
CineCaribés: Tell us about the film.
TC: The Black Moses tells the story Sir Lynden Pindling. Next to Sidney Poitier, L.O. Pinlding, is probably our most famous and infamous Bahamian. He’s the first black Prime Minister of the Bahamas. And his story is the story of our social, poltical, and economic revolution.
CineCaribés: What is unique about the film’s storytelling? Why did you choose to make this film/tell the story this way?
TC: I have no interest in telling stories the way we’ve been telling stories. The movies that move me most are films that take a risk and think outside the box. The Black Moses has been praised for its “innovative” approach. I wouldn’t do it any other way, to be honest. The same old same old is kinda boring, no?
CineCaribés: Lynden Pindling has been the subject of other films … what inspired you to tell his story? How is this film different?
TC: It was a lamenting. That’s what drove me most to do it. Sadness. I am and was saddened by the state of our nation, the Caribbean, and the African Diaspora around the world. The L.O Pindling story was an opportunity for me to go on a journey and discover how we arrived where we are today as a nation, as a region, and as a people.
CineCaribés: Put Pindling in perspective in terms of Bahamian and Caribbean History. Who were his contemporaries? How did he contribute to Bahamian/Caribbean history? What was his governing philosophy?
TC: Pindling was an integrationist… in the Martin Luther King Jr. sense. His greatest contribution to our nation was probably leading what was called our peaceful or “quiet” revolution. However, The Black Mosesargues between the philosophies of integration and separation, and the film wonders if either governing philosophies worked to prosper black and developing nations.
CineCaribés: What is the relationship between Bahamians and Pindling like now? How is he remembered?
TC: Well, that depends on who you’re talking to. Lol. To some he’s a god among men. To others, he’s a devil. He’s commonly referred to as the father of our nation. But I was in a liquor store in Nassau some months ago and these men were all huddled talking politics and one said he thought history would record Pindling’s story as it did the pirate “Blackbeard’s.”
CineCaribés: From your perspective, what does the film contribute to the overall Pindling narrative? African, African diaspora, and Caribbean narrative?
TC: Well, I’ll repeat what Dennis Haysbert said when he read the script. It was the thing that attracted him to played the part of Black Moses mostly. He said he was blown away, as an African American, by how much this Bahamian story mirrored America’s and Zambia’s, Tanzannia’s, South Africa, etc. Actor/filmmaker Danny Glover, called the film the “mythology of the New World African.”
CineCaribés: Why should audiences see this film? What do you hope audiences will take away after seeing the film?
TC: A healthy conversation on what it will take for developing nations to gain a greater economic independence, is everything we hope for. Moses, according to biblical legend, never enters the promise land. Nor does any of our ‘Black Moses’ in history.
CineCaribés: Feature length films are still a rare commodity in Caribbean cinema, mostly because of the lack of financial resources, and in many cases, technical skills – how were you able to make yours?
TC: It was a progressive growth. I began the film on a very small grant. And then as bigger names agreed to be apart of it, the film grew and grew. As it grew, more investors came on board. There was nothing to prepare us for what the film is today. Sometimes, if its great and meaningful material, you gotta begin with what you have and trust the universe to provide up the rest.
CineCaribés: How do you think your making this film can be used by other Caribbean filmmakers in their quest to tell Caribbean stories and share them with the rest of the world?
TC: I believe in myself. Having that faith in yourself and your work is everything. It gets you through good days and bad days. I can only hope that the faith I breathe is contagious and that it spreads, encouraging other Caribbean filmmakers to believe in themselves as well.
CineCaribés: The film will see it’s NY premiere in Harlem – what does this mean to you?
TC: Its encouraging. Its encouraging and a boost of morale for our country as well. I still get emails from Bahamian youth from my first film Founding Fathers; Sir Stafford Sands. This will mean more to them that anyone else, I think.
CineCaribés: Where else will it be showing, and what else do you have planned for it?
TC: It also opens in L.A and nationwide, in The Bahamas, Discover Day Weekend. As it grows, it will go to other cities and places in the Caribbean.
CineCaribés: What’s next up for you?
TC: There’s another Black Moses film in the works. A docudrama titled The Fugee. And I’ve been hired to write and produce my first narrative feature in 2015. Oh.. and there’s The Cinemas… I hope to continue my work with The Cinemas and help usher in a sustainable Caribbean film industry.
The film will premiere in Harlem, at MIST Theaters, 46 West 116th Street, New York, NY 10026: Friday, Oct 10 @ 7pm; Saturday, Oct 11 @ 5pm; Sunday, Oct 12 @ 7:30pm. For tickets, visit www.myimagestudios.com.